BURRILLVILLE – A new chapter of an international organization is now connecting women from across northern Rhode Island right here in Burrillville, and it’s growing fast.
Pascoag resident Chrstine Gallo launched the Blackstone Valley Rhode Island chapter of Polka Dot Powerhouse in February. It now has 45 members, who meet monthly at The Harmony Lodge to network, support one another and to help push their personal goals to the next level, according to Gallo, who now serves as the groups managing director.
Billed as “a global business and personal networking and connection company based on relationship-building with positive, action-forward women,” Polka Dot was launched in Wisconsin by founder Shannon Crotty.
Gallo first learned of the movement – which now has around 75 individual chapters in the United States and Canada – when a friend invited her to attend meeting in Framingham, Mass. last year.
“I found the Polka Dot Powerhouse when I was in a very transitional period in my life,” Gallo told NRI NOW this week.
After 17 years as a public school teacher, Gallo had decided to leave the profession.
“I didn’t know quite what my next step was but i knew it was time to make a change,” she said.
At that first meeting in Framingham, “everyone was just so welcoming,” said Gallo. “I could tell from the feel of the meeting that I knew a lot of people who would enjoy being part of it, so I thought it would be something positive to bring to the northern Rhode Island area.”
Polka Dot members network to build business and personal relationships. And they come from a mix of industries, from business owners and corporate leaders, to stay at home moms and retired executives.
“It’s all different women from different stages in their lives,” said Gallo. “What makes us different than other networking companies is we’re more interested in knowing who you are, than what you do. It’s a great opportunity for any kind of woman.”
Chapters often include more than one member from the same industry because the group is not category exclusive, and values collaboration over competition.
In the Blackstone Valley, members meet on the last Tuesday of every month at The Harmony Lodge in Chepachet. At their first meeting in February, there was a waiting list and when the trend continued in March, Gallo decided to add a second gathering time. She began holding both lunch and dinner meetings in April.
“I’m happy to be able to offer that to people,” she said. “It makes it more accessible.”
Meetings include a guest speaker every month with a focus on a variety of topics, such as the use of social media. At the local chapter’s next meeting on Tuesday, July 31, Maria Yunis will speak on the “power of dreams to move you forward.”
And a partnership with Lodge keeps the gatherings affordable, with $20 per person covering the events.
“We’re bringing nearly 50 professional women to their location on a monthly they basis,” said Gallo.
All members fill out “connect slips” at the end of each meeting saying who in the group they would like to meet. One pair of women, drawn randomly, receives a $25 gift card to return to the restaurant and share a meal.
And Gallo makes all of the connections between the women, who hope to network with one another for a variety of reason, whether they share interests such as home schooling, or business interests.
“The day after, I send close to 50 emails to people,” she said.
Membership to Polka Dot Powerhouse costs $299 a year, but those who attend a meeting first as a guest get $50 off membership if they join within next seven days.
“You get the feeling at the first meeting as to whether or not you think this is going to benefit your life,” said Gallo.
The benefits, she notes, include lasting friendships, with a company slogan “Build your connections, build your tribe.”
“It’s hard when you’re an adult to get out and meet new people,” said Gallo. “This gives you the opportunity to make those connections you need in your life to get to the next level. And we’re fun. There’s a lot of laughing.”
As for Gallo, the organization helped her make it through that uncertain period in her life. She now runs Sunflower Kids Yoga.
“It’s just so rewarding,” she said. “Whenever you’re in a vulnerable self-doubty kind of state, it’s nice to know you have women in your life that are going to help you move past it.”
To learn more about the Blackstone Valley Chapter of Polka Dot Powerhouse, follow them on Facebook.